Nick and I grew soggier in 2012, rounder and softer than ever before and at the end of it, we felt so tired. I can’t recall a vegetable in December that I didn’t eat coated in sauce, and every time I had a feeling I covered it in cheese and chased it with a handful of chocolate. So while we finished 2012 in a food coma, we’re starting 2o13 a little lighter.
I made a critical error in weighing myself the morning after an epic New Year’s Eve feast. (Never do that.) The sum of every bad choice I made this year is much higher than I’d anticipated, but that’s okay – it sets the bar for success this year lower. I have been fretting over what I am going to do with my life – 30 is fast approaching and good lord, what have I done? – but the weight-loss excuse buys time. “I had to lose 20 pounds!” I’ll say, and then maybe no one will notice that I still haven’t lived up to that potential people used to threaten me with.
If you are wondering what to do with your life, I suggest starting with a simple, hearty meal. Sloppy Joes remind (reminds?) me of meals on weeknights in a time when bad choices weren’t measured by weight, that I would always eat without fussing, and that would more often than not finish with a bowl of Neapolitan ice cream from a bucket (heavy on the strawberry for me, please) and maybe a drizzle of chocolate sauce. This grown-up version eschews meat and ketchup, but is no less satisfying … perhaps more so, because it’s delicious but not to the point of discomfort. 2013. We can do this.
Lentil Sloppy Joes
- 1 cup green, brown or French lentils
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, finely chopped
- 1 small onion
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 lb. mushrooms, finely minced (or whizzed until almost puréed in a food processor or blender)
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. chili powder, such as ancho chili powder
- 1/2 tsp. mustard powder
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 x 5.5 oz. can tomato paste
- 1 cup water
- 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp. honey
- Salt to taste
Simmer lentils and bay leaf in 2 cups of lightly salted water until tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain and rinse, then set aside. Discard bay leaf.
Meanwhile, cook celery, carrot, and onion in olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over high heat until glistening, cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove lid, add garlic, and cook until the mixture is caramelized and reduced by two thirds, an additional 15 to 20 minutes. The longer you cook this, the sweeter it will get.
Add mushrooms, and cook until moisture has mostly dissipated and the bottom of the pan is dry. Add spices, thyme and tomato paste, stir until combined, then add lentils. Add the cup of water and the apple cider vinegar and honey. Stir to combine, and cook until the mix begins to bubble. Serve over lightly toasted sourdough or buns.